Friday, May 23, 2008

Basildon Labour bad at maths

I've just noticed that the website for the Labour Group on the Council has the current state of the parties at 27 Conservatives and 12 Labour. Actually it's 29 Conservatives to 10 Labour. Do keep up.

Labour's not funny

Yesterday, the Labour party asked the voters of Crewe and Nantwich to vote for them because they despised some of our fellow citizens and some visitors to our country. To their credit, and Labour's shame, the electors saw through race and class-baiting and deserted Labour in droves. It was a disgusting Labour campaign and many of their own people have been saying so. The only rational explanation is that they knew that they were going to lose, but by running a poisonous 'core-vote' strategy they hoped to limit the damage. It says a lot about how they view their own core vote, but I am glad it not only didn't work, it was a disaster.

Now they are saying that it was all about introducing a note of humour into the election. Well I have news for them. Hate isn't remotely funny.

New Look Council

Full Council last night for the first time in the new St. George's room at the Basildon Centre. This is part of our general refurbishment of the Council offices at the Council staff move out of Church Walk House elsewhere in Basildon Town Centre and I think all would agree that the new room is much better. It has decent air-conditioning for starters, unlike the old sweat-box.

The St. George's name continues the general theme of Britishness and Englishness that we have sought to promote for Basildon. This is quite concious, we have all seen the symbols of our nation hijacked by the far-Right in the past and we are determined to take the back. I do believe that this is one of the things that has helped to keep the BNP down in Basildon. They work by trying to portray themselves as the sole custodians of patriotism, but that argument is difficult to make when the Conservative Council flies the Union Flag and the Cross of St.George from the Council offices every day of the year. So, far there are no BNP Councillors in Basildon, which is very good for community relations, and for the operation of the Council. While I am not a particular fan of Labour and the Liberal Democrats I think that we are all united in our especial detestation of the BNP. Keeping them out means that we can keep an all-party cabinet and that debate in the Council has as its background a basic commitment to equality and respect for all of the groups in our community. Frankly, Basildon District does not need those Nazis.

The meeting itself was pretty routine, except for one Labour Councillor who raised a number of ridiculous points of order about an item that everyone agreed about anyway. Having made his speeches he then voted for the matter, leaving everyone wondering why he had bothered. If there is a real concern about agendas then it is reasonably straightforward to bring these up with the Council officers before the meeting, instead of putting on a show in public. Labour were a bit down though, but I don't blame them for that. While we were talking the Crewe and Nantwich byelection was drawing to a close. This was a disaster for Labour and most of them must realise by now that Brown is simply not up to the job. It also raises the question about the moral responsibility of those MPs who nominated him for the Labour leadership, because they must have known that he couldn't hack it. The only question now is if they have the intelligence to dump him before he destroys their party. I actually hope that they get rid of him. Never mind the politics, Britain should not be led by a such an incompetent, regardless of Party.

I never liked Tony Blair, but I was never embarrassed that he was our Prime Minister.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Brown to face Challenge?

The Labour party is holding its breath waiting for the result of the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. If they lose, and the last poll showed them trailing by 13 points, then a bout of bloodletting is to be expected.

The first issue will be the divisive 'toff' campaign that has seen Labour pushing class war and xenophobia as the main reasons for people to vote for them. This has already caused disquiet among many Labour people because of its small-minded appeal to the worst instincts of voters, but they have been muted by the need to hold things together for the campaign. Do not expect that to continue if Labour fail in Crewe. Then the gloves will come off and the recriminations will be bitter. It is one thing to lose an election, but quite another to lose the moral direction that is meant to characterise your party. One rumour is that it was Stephen Carter, Brown's management consultant, who came up with the 'toff' wheeze. Certainly someone will have to take the fall. As a former parliamentary candidate myself, I can’t help but wonder what Ms. Dunwoody is playing at. Losing is one thing, but losing with this campaign cannot but kill off any sort of political career she may hoped to have had. If she were as independent as her mum then she would have told Labour HQ to shove off when they came up with their poisonous ideas.

The second issue is Brown himself. If Labour lose badly then the rumour is that a coup is planned. However, the buzz on the Internet is not about Charles Clarke, rather Alan Milburn as the assassin. Labour rules make a challenge to a sitting PM very difficult in theory, but in practice a succession of MPs calling on Brown to go could force the issue, especially if any of the cabinet were involved.

Whatever happens the elephant in the room is that the Labour party is broke. Tony Blair mortgaged their future in the 2005 general election campaign and then bowed out leaving Brown with empty coffers. Brown is not a good fundraiser and even if he survives politically, keeping him at the helm may mean the end of the party as a going financial concern. This is serious stuff by the way; Brown's ineptitude has cost the party the broad-based support that it needs to rebuild as a functioning political entity. It is this sort of convergence of events that can do for a political movement: no money, poor leadership and, worst of all, a political narrative that is out of touch with most of the electorate. By ditching the New Labour coalition, Labour could contract back into a party of the working class. Except that the working class, as measured by those people in NRS Social Grade Definitions C2DE, only makes up about 44% of the population. If your electoral strategy starts by only appealing to less than half of the population before you have even started competing with other parties then you are never likely to be a party of government, and that means that many good people interested in public service will find another berth.

Labour's best bet is to find another leader who can raise money and who wants to keep them in the political mainstream. Much more of the class war stuff and Nick Clegg will be leading Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in a couple of general elections.